We have an invasive species prevention management problem at Cachuma Lake, and the management practices need to be revisited in order to adequately serve the lake’s mandated mission to provide recreational opportunities for locals and visitors.
When lake levels rose to a point of making the lower boat ramp useable, there was cause for celebration among the local boater community. Nowhere was there more excitement than at Hook, Line & Sinker, our Santa Barbara bait and tackle shop. Many of our city and county neighbors have small boats and kayaks and have waited eagerly for the chance to get back out on that gorgeous lake for fishing and wildlife viewing.
When quagga and zebra mussels showed up as invasive species in reservoirs up and down our state, various lake management entities adopted varying practices and imposed regulations to try to stop the spread of the mussels. Mussels can attached themselves to boats and hitchhike, and they can come from the state water system that Cachuma Lake taps into.
Cachuma Lake visitors struggle with the county’s extreme management practices. Boats are quarantined, inspected and banded, meaning that boaters cannot freely visit various lakes.
This management practice just doesn’t fit with our recreational habits. People like to visit different lakes, especially bass fisherfolk who become masters at picking up tactics and baits and learning the nuances of fishing each of our reservoirs within their striking distance.
With water levels on the rise and lake recreation becoming popular once again, it is time for Santa Barbara County to revisit and revamp our invasive species prevention and management plan. The current plan and accompanying restrictions impede the recreational pattern of our boaters and therefore hurt attendance at the lake, which in turn has a negative impact on the lake concessions and the Nature Center.
We need a plan that allows boaters to trailer their boats from lake to lake. Perhaps we can accomplish this by using other management approaches. One of my scientist heroes is Dr. Carrie Culver, California sea grant aquatic resources specialist. She and her team consisting of Heather Lahr, Leigh Johnson and Jodi Cassell published an impressive paper titled, “Quagga and Zebra Mussel Eradication and Control Tactics.” It is a lengthy and thorough document.
Besides dealing with methods to eradicate the invasive mussels, it describes emerging technologies to use biocides and specific fish populations to control and in some cases eradicate the mussels. A biocide written about in the paper is Zequanox, an environmentally compatible product derived from a naturally occurring microbe. The paper says it is proven to be lethal to zebra and quagga mussels without harming humans, infrastructure, nontarget species or the environment.
Another method for control and eradication is termed “fish biocontrol,” which utilizes the diets of various fish to eat mussels throughout their various life stages. This can be accomplished by introducing fish into the lakes freely or putting them in cages that are moved to control sites as needed.
Some of these helpful fish already call Cachuma Lake their home. Fish on the list include redear sunfish, common carp, blue catfish and threadfin shad.
I ask that Cachuma Lake managers research alternative prevention and control practices and find a way to make the lake more open and friendly to boaters and kayakers who like to visit our various lakes.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.